Harding announced Thursday, Sept. 24, that the University will host an in-person graduation ceremony for 2020 spring and fall graduates.
Currently, commencement is scheduled for Nov. 21 — the Saturday following the end of on-campus classes. Grad Fest is Oct. 9-10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for seniors to pick up their regalia for commencement and graduation. Even with the scheduled commencement, it is possible graduation could be postponed again if on-campus classes are canceled due to a rise in coronavirus cases.
“Plans would have to be changed, and I don’t know what it would be,” provost Marty Spears said. “If we have to send everyone home, it is hard to imagine a situation where we would bring everybody back.”
The ceremony will have COVID-19 precautions in place to keep the campus and community protected. The biggest difference for this event is that guests will not be allowed in the assembly. This ceremony will honor all 2020 graduates, who will be physically distanced 6 feet apart, which will limit the amount of faculty participation.
“Sitting 6 feet apart is what limits the capacity,” Spears said. “We will try to accommodate everyone who wants to come.”
Senior Makensie Cobb will graduate November 2020 with a degree in nursing and a minor in health missions. For her, completing her degree is something she plans to celebrate.
“I think this graduation holds particular importance because it signifies a sense of completion and normalcy which is important after the tough year we have made it through,” Cobb said.
While this in-person graduation is exciting for some, others are indifferent about the announcement. Cade Williams, who completed his degree in the spring, does not plan to participate.
“I’m glad there is the option to walk for those who wish that, but I don’t think at this point I personally have any desire to do so,” Williams said.
While now-alumni may not have as much a desire to walk at graduation, graduating seniors, like Cobb, are glad they have the opportunity to do it.
“I think it is an important moment recognizing the work that I have put in, but also the work that everyone who has supported me and encouraged me to get a degree,” Cobb said.
Spring graduates were invited to a virtual graduation instead of a ceremony due to the rising COVID-19 concerns. Now, with more information about COVID-19, proper precautions can be set, allowing the graduation to take place. The purpose of the ceremony is to honor the graduates and let them say farewell to their classmates in a memorable and safe way.
“The friends seeing each other for the last time for maybe 20 or 30 years — that’s a really big deal,” Spears said. “We want to make that possible.”
Details for guest participation in alternate ways are still being discussed. Spears hopes that the campus will realize the importance of making it to Thanksgiving, allowing the seniors to walk at graduation.
“I hope they understand that we are trying to do all we can do to make it special,” Spears said. “We understand that it is different. We hope that being together with their classmates will make it special.”